What the Huskers Have Taught Me

Let me explain one of my foundational beliefs:  I am ALWAYS learning.  (That’s a topic that I will cover at some point, I suppose.)  In any situation, I try to slow down and ask myself, “What am I learning from this?”

Well… I must say that I had another “learning moment” on Saturday.  I am a big fan of the Nebraska Cornhuskers.  My dad’s side of the family is from Nebraska and up until 1988, I didn’t really pay attention to college football at all.  But then, while in a hotel room somewhere in the midwest on the way to Nebraska to visit my grandfather who had just had surgery, I watched Nebraska beat Oklahoma in the rain.  I was hooked.  That love for the program grew and I sought out former players to get autographs; I bought old game programs; and after we moved to Nebraska in 1992, I tried going to as many games as I could, always grateful for those who sold or gave tickets to my family.

Now, fast-forward to Saturday, November 15, 2014.  I watched an outstanding display of talent… but unfortunately, it was from the opponent.  Melvin Gordon broke the single-game rushing record against my beloved Huskers.

It was embarrassing.

For those that don’t know, Nebraska had a long, rich tradition of success in football.  Recently, they have had several humiliating defeats on national television.  Without going into great detail, ever since a fateful night in 2012, I have been of the opinion that Nebraska needs a new football coach that will lead the team to greater heights–a place of honor that the program long-held.

For two years, I have had several people disagree with me.  One gentleman sent me disturbing emails, containing several mis-spelled epithets that sounded straight out of R. Lee Ermey’s character from “Full Metal Jacket.”

So it was, after I posted my remarks of disgust following the loss on Saturday, I fully expected the barrage from those who disagreed.

And then I had an idea:  What if I would seek understanding?

I reached out to supporters of the head coach:  Why do you support him?

The overwhelming response was telling:  “If we fire the coach, who are we going to get?”  “What if we get a coach who is worse?”

That was my learning moment.  Nebraska fans RECOGNIZE the problem, but fear has paralyzed them.  The general consensus seems to be that the current coach is better than the last one.  What if we end up with a coach like the last guy?

What would happen if businesses operated this way?  What would happen to innovation?

How about education?  Isn’t this a major problem in education today?  The “we’ve always done it this way” mantra is the frustrating progress-stopper of our day.  Take a risk!  Not every lesson will be amazing or exciting.  Not everything we try will be a success.  That’s okay!  Learn from it.  Teach your students to take calculated, well-thought out risks.  Teach them to be bold by modeling it.  And when something fails, acknowledge it, discuss it as a class, and take steps to change.  Give your students (or your teachers) permission to fail.  Especially within the classroom, wouldn’t we rather have our students experience failure and learn from it than go into society as fragile teacups that have never experienced failure and (as a result) have no experience in not only adapting but even RECOGNIZING the need to change?  See?  I’ve provided you with a great example in the previous sentence.  That sentence has horrible flow and syntax, but I’ll leave it.  Next time I’ll write something in a more eloquent way.

What happens when the church operates in this way?  Or how about in our individual faith journeys?  We are called to be bold; not fearful.  And yet, how many of us boldly proclaim the Gospel?  How many of us live that faith, pray constantly and consistently, and seek ways to serve the Lord?  I don’t ask those rhetorical questions in an accusatory way.  Let me share an embarrassing anecdote:

I went to high school in a small town.  Every year, the local newspaper would publish “Senior Profiles” in the weekly paper.  My senior year, I filled out the form and turned it in to the paper.  Under the section regarding my future, I had written something along the lines of “I want to seek God’s will and do it.”  I will NEVER forget what happened after that was published.  I came to school and Mrs. Martin, who was one of our school’s math teachers and our FCA branch sponsor, stopped me in the hallway.  Her words would convict me:  “John! I read your senior profile!  I never knew you were a Christian!  You should come to FCA!”

I never knew you were a Christian.

That has stayed with me.  So, you see, I’m definitely not writing this from a haughty position.  If anything, I write this as an encouragement to myself.

It’s hard to believe that my favorite team getting destroyed on the field could provide for ANY learning experience.  After all, football is an amusement; a game.  And yet, the feeling of “who else could we hire” spoke deeply to me of underlying issues in education and faith.

(I hope the next lesson I learn from watching Nebraska football has something to do with being a gracious winner after a huge victory…)


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